Thursday, 29 August 2013

Emily and the Beanstalk

Mini Me - Luckily I loved writing and reading

Things have suddenly got a lot more serious.

Previously, I wrote a blog post about activities I was doing to distract myself from waiting for news from publishers. These ranged from making bread to organising my tights into freezer bags. I also hinted at a new novel I was writing. If you're my agent reading this, I assure you, more writing has been produced than bread. Unfortunately both bread and writing have been of dubious quality.
 
As the unfamiliar limbo continued I began to think my world had become too small. All I did was write,  tea, wee, write. I needed to do more with my life.
 
Suddenly I found myself applying to become a volunteer for Beanstalk, a charity which works at improving literacy in primary schools. I say 'suddenly' which, not only is very bad writing according to Leonard Elmore's writing rules, but also a lie. I've been thinking of doing some charity work for a very long time.
 
Why literacy? Well, to be honest, I have my neighbours to thank for my choice. I can't stand them. They're dirty and inconsiderate, and if you happen to be my neighbour and reading this, then I obviously don't mean you, I mean the OTHER neighbours downstairs/upstairs. I have tried not to feel this way. But I do often dream of moving to a remote cave far away from human beings who spit with the enthusiasm of llamas.
 
And yet, I have to thank them. Because one day one of them left a note under our door, and I realised they could barely write. They had the literacy skills of a seven year old. And suddenly (sorry Leonard), I saw with a different perspective. How would my life be now if I couldn't read or write? What choices would I have? What would I be doing?
 
Personally, I believe kids should be coming out of schools knowing how to read without the help of volunteers. I mean, how can this country be called a first world country when free education is so bad? When some kids are going into school without shoes? That's certainly one reason why I might have stalled from volunteering before. I mean, it shouldn't be this bad! But the sad fact is that in some areas it can be. So instead of thinking too much about the 'shoulds', I thought I'd delve in and try to help. And I'm not trying to be a hero. I'm not even a particularly generous person, by any means. I obviously just want to minimise the risk of crap neighbours spreading across the nation.
 
I have yet to start the job. The charity might not even want me after reading this blog post, because they'll worry I won't be able to abide by the confidentiality rules! But of course I can and will. I won't say another word on the matter after this. I have done two training days, one entirely dedicated to child protection, which was heavy going, and made me realise how lucky I've been in my life. So, um, this post goes out to my parents for keeping me safe and putting so much effort into my education - thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Fine Art of Procrastination

You think you've got the art of procrastination down to a T do you?
I'm not saying you can't do it. You're reading my blog when you should be doing some work, potential you've obviously got. But I bet there are some areas you can improve.
Hot Drinks
Do you waste time preparing endless hot drinks and urinating? This is a question from a survey in a writers magazine. The preparation of tea and coffee is a classic procrastination technique but I wonder if you're pushing it to its limits. If you're drinking instant coffee then I'm afraid the answer is NO. Not only is instant coffee not real coffee (I have a Colombian husband, I know this stuff), but more problematically it is far too quick to make, making it a less than satisfactory method of procrastination.
Originally my husband bought that fancy little coffee maker, the one George Clooney proclaims to love so much, and we ordered capsules every month. Life was easy. Coffee was delicious.

But alas life was too easy and the coffee, though delicious, was not taking long enough to prepare.

Since those carefree days, we have made some changes to ensure making coffee takes up more of our time. Here are some steps worth taking if you want procrastinating to taste better and last for longer.
1. Buy George Clooney Coffee Maker or equivalent
2. Buy ground coffee
3. Buy a manual grinder (Warning: An electric one will be too quick)
4. Source empty coffee capsules compatible with coffee machine
5. Buy a special spoon that clips onto capsule to aid filling up capsule
6. Grind coffee
7. Scoop up coffee with special spoon
8. Clear up spilled coffee powder
9. Put sticker over capsule
10. Stick in coffee machine and press start
11. If coffee doesn't come out adjust coffee capsule as replacement capsule might not fit as well as capsules especially designed for your machine
12. Warm up milk in electric milk warmer (though faster than boiling on stove it is infinitely more stylish)
13. Pour in milk
14. Wash milk warmer at once to avoid sticking
15. Serve
Total Time: 20mins or 3-4 days, depending if you have equipment.


Napping
If you are working from home you might be indulging in the odd nap. But napping in an already installed piece of furniture is not going to take up enough time. Furthermore napping in a bed or a sofa lacks a certain je ne sais quois. For a superior napping experience I suggest you do the following.
1. Go to a Latin American country
2. Buy a hammock
3. Return home
4. Go to Homebase or equivalent
5. Buy massive screws
6. Screw screws into any available wall or tree
7. Hang Hammock
8. Prepare coffee as suggested above
9. Nap in hammock
Total Time: 1 week

Great Hammock Shopping in Raquira, Colombia


Nails
A nail file on your desk is a very good idea since you can't type and file nails at the same time. However filing your nails by yourself will never take as long as getting someone else to do them. You may be aware that The Guardian recently reported that some nail salons are fronts for illegal activity. Readers commented that they would now stop going to get their nails done. What a great bloody help to bona fide nail salons that's going to be! To help reputable nail salons from losing business and to make procrastination a more beautiful experience, here are some lengthy steps.
1. Learn Vietnamese (handy for eavesdropping)
2. Arrive at nail salon early
3. Read magazine
4. Dawdle over choosing nail colour
5. Get nails done
6. Say Yes to a coffee (Optional: In Vietnamese tell them you grind your own coffee these days)
7. Walk home
8. Make a coffee to recover from trip
9. Nap in hammock to recover from grinding coffee beans
Total Time: A few years depending on how quick you pick up languages

Bona Fide Nail Salon


Top Tip: The Vietnamese word for coffee grinder is máy xay cà phê *
(*according to Google translate)




I like to think these tips have been useful. However, you should probably get back to work now...    

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Here Comes the Bride... (Repeat times four!)

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post because bad grammar transforms my polite, well-mannered literary friends into wild-eyed monsters capable of eating fluffy kittens.  



No, these aren't bride's feet!

It's a summer of change. Everyone's getting married and having babies. Last Sunday, I went to a hen party and was vomited on, not by a drunken hen, but by a nine month old baby. It was the first time I'd ever been to a hen party where boys were allowed, two very cute boys who crawled around as if they'd drunk all the Prosecco.

Personally I'm not going to have babies until I see some better advertising for them. All I ever hear is how exhausted parents are. How utterly, unimaginably fatigued they are. I uncover their weariness in fiction and non-fiction. I think I've been particularly scarred by the novel Night Waking about an academic trying to write a book while looking after two little children on some remote island in Scotland. I felt exhausted reading that book. I even began to think I actually had two small children myself.   

I've got four weddings left to attend this year, two couples whose relationship has developed over many years and two that were stabbed in the heart with cupid's arrow, followed by a knock over the head with his bow, who, within  less than a year knew they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Luckily none of these couples are connected in any way so I can wear the same dress four times.

Actually dressing is going to be a problem for this Friday's wedding because I had my nails painted fluorescent orange and they are still in great nick. I feel like the only way I'm going to pull off the look is if I acquire a fluorescent orange handbag. Or fluorescent orange shoes... Oh don't worry, I'm not really the kind of person who makes decisions based on the colour of her nails (but seriously, what about grey and bright orange?).

My brother is also getting married this year. Next month, in fact, to his beautiful girlfriend of seven years. She caught the bouquet at my own wedding a couple of years ago, despite two of my very competitive (and already engaged) friends battling in the midst of all the single ladies. I ordered them to remove themselves from the group but they were like naughty school girls (they know who they are, and now you do because here's the photo).
 
 

I don't think it'll sink in that my brother is getting married until I'm on that plane to Mallorca. I'm getting teary-eyed just thinking about it. Aw... Then again, I've shed tears watching Master Chef, Dragon's Den, The Eurovision Song Contest (probably), Strictly Come Dancing and nearly every film I've ever watched. In fact, if the music was emotive enough, I'd probably cry watching an advert for weed killer.

Anyway, the wedding of one's sibling is very special and I want them both to be very happy. I'd also like to them to live in the same country as me. But mainly, I just wish them all the happiness in the world. But really, they should move to London.  (If you're reading this bro, London has been pretty sunny recently, and in seven years it'll be sunny again).

While change is descending on many people around me, in my own life I've been feeling like time has stood still. I think it's the typical feeling of August. When I was little, every August my parents would shove what seemed like everything they owned in the car, squeeze us into the back pockets of the front seats, and drive across France until they hit Spain. We would spend the whole month in a sleepy village in the Pyrenees, living the simple life.

I'm still waiting for news from publishers but I'm not refreshing my email so much. I'm slowly editing a book on blogging for the kindle and getting on with plotting the next novel. Change comes when you least expect it, so I'm going to pretend I don't expect it.

... doop di doo...

*Click*

....

No new Emails.  

...

Okay, so I need to work on my expression of nonchalance. Change will come. In the meantime it's more than enough to join in these happy celebrations with my friends and family.

...

*Click*

...

Seriously. It is!